Much ado about snow stashes use

CRESTED BUTTE – Ski towns are like family, but as in many families, plenty of bickering goes on.

Take Crested Butte. Everybody loves the backcountry. But as has been occurring now for 15 years or more, some skiers and snowboarders are buying snowmobiles to eliminate the sweat and get dibs on the choice backcountry slopes.

One local skier recently complained about planning to ski the Slate River, north of Crested Butte, and encountering seven snowmobiles while strapping skins onto her skis.

“I almost threw up from the smell. I turned around and left,” said Melanie Rees.

“My opinion – turns should be earned. If you don’t want to earn them, ride lifts. I don’t understand how anyone could consider themselves to be an environmentalist if they use snowmobiles,” she says.

In Crested Butte a decade ago, there was also some public squabbling as skiers complained about snowshoers messing up their trails.

Now, in Park City comes news of grousing among users of an area called Round Valley. The open-space areas have a groomed track, and slow skiers are being annoyed by fast skiers, and some skiers are cranky about people walking, reportsThe Park Record.

And then there are the dog-walkers, and everybody gets annoyed by those who don’t pick up their dogs’ doo. Much ado about nothing? Not with hundreds of dogs running around on any given day.

Activists argue new environmentalism

ASPEN – How much of an emergency is the climate? That’s the question at hundreds of sites across the West now as renewable energy projects bump up against environmental concerns.

Consider Aspen, which began operating a hydro plant in 1893, becoming one of the first cities in America to have electrified streetlights. Then, in 1958, it abandoned the small hydroelectric plant on Castle Creek, as power produced by coal-fired plants and the big dams of the West was slightly cheaper.

Several years ago, city officials began pushing to reinstall a plant. The 1.2-megawatt plant would deliver about 8 percent of the power supplied by the city’s utility department. Stated another way, it would deliver about one-sixth of all the power used by the Aspen Skiing Co. to run its four ski areas, including lodges and restaurants.

But it hasn’t been easy. Most thorny have been objections from people with homes along Castle Creek, whose waters would be diverted to generate the electricity, before being released downstream. Some local environmentalists warn of damage to fish.

Writing inThe Aspen Times, energy and climate activists Randy Udall and Auden Schendler argue that the threat has been overblown. “We are not talking about Glen Canyon Dam here or mountain top mining,” they say. “This run-of-the-river project has been studied nigh unto exhaustion, and the robust conclusion is that it’s environmentally sound.”

The two activists concede that the Castle Creek homeowners are making a sacrifice, but say it is for the greater good and lower emissions.

“Scientists tell us we need to cut emissions 60 to 80 percent by mid-century. We don’t need to trim them a little, we need to slash them a lot,” they say in an op-ed published inThe Aspen Times.

“To achieve that goal, Americans are going to have to embrace a new kind of environmentalism the way the German and Danes and Spaniards have, where responsible energy production in our back yards and on our rooftops and local streams is not something to oppose, but something to celebrate, where Aspen gets kudos not just for our bottomless powder but for our clean power.”

Whistler parking fees highly unpopular

WHISTLER, B.C. – Go figure. We’re willing to fork over plenty of money to go skiing, hoist a brewski, and eat a fine meal. But pay for parking? Fugiddaboutit.

Whistler now charges $8 in winter and $12 in summer to park

at one of its paved parking lots. The idea was to raise money for a variety of good purposes, but also to nudge commuters onto mass transit, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But the mass transit within Whistler isn’t particularly good, saysPique Newsmagazine, and the idea of paid parking has been as popular as a pepperoni pizza for bargoers at 3 a.m. The newspaper urges the local government to revisit the subject.

Solar panels help treat Telluride waste

TELLURIDE – Some 500 solar panels have been installed on top of the wastewater treatment plant that serves Telluride and Mountain Village.

Public works officials say the panels will produce 200 megawatts annually, or about 10 percent of the electric needs of the plant, which is one of the single largest users of electricity in the region. The project cost $600,000.

In 2008, mayors of Telluride and adjacent Mountain Village announced their joint intent of obtaining 100 percent of the communities’ electricity from renewable sources by 2020. They have a long ways to go, but this year Telluride plans to start studying the potential for tapping local creeks to produce electricity in micro-hydro plants.

Sheriff, resort disagree on rescues

TELLURIDE – Who should pay the tab? That’s the question in Telluride, where the sheriff’s department has been called out twice in recent weeks to rescue skiers from Bear Creek, the tantalizing but sometimes dangerous drainage adjacent to but outside the ski area.

Forcing the question is Bill Masters, the long-time sheriff of San Miguel County. “I’m going to run a ski area called Bear Creek. It’s a new career, I think,” he joked in a conversation with theTelluride Daily Planet.

Masters argues that the ski patrollers should be dispatched to Bear Creek to rescue in-trouble skiers. According to current policy, the ski patrollers have to punch out, then join the rescue squad under the sheriff’s supervision.

“It’s wrong that the ski patrolmen have to go off the clock and rescue people who are side-country skiing.”

Dave Riley, the chief executive of the ski area, said he understands the sheriff’s frustration, “but if the ski areas is going to take responsibility for what’s happening outside our permit area, then the permit areas needs to be expanded.”

This story has been evolving since the late 1980s, when four people were killed in avalanches in the valley, causing the U.S. Forest Service to close backcountry gates from the ski area. In the last decade, the Forest Service has restored the backcountry gates – not that the lack of legal access ever stopped people from slipping from the ski area into Bear Creek.

During the last few years, Riley has been talking about the potential for expanding ski area operations formally into Bear Creek.

Riley told theDaily Planethis company could manage the Bear Creek Valley. “For anyone to say we need to step up and take a bigger role, my answer is, let us. But we’re not going to do it halfway. It’s either part of the permit area, or it’s not.”

Deer, people pay heavily for collisions

KREMMLING – The death toll of wildlife-vehicle collisions was in the news in mountain towns both in Colorado and Wyoming last week.

In Colorado, theSky-Hi News announced that billionaire hedge fund manager Paul T. Jones, who founded Tudor Investment in 1985, has donated $805,000 with the goal of reducing the potential for collisions along Highway 9, a few miles south of Kremmling. He owns a ranch there along the Blue River, halfway between Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs.

Mule deer forage among the sagebrush hillsides above the highway during winter, venturing down to water at night. In 1985, a couple from a nearby ranch was driving home in their small car when an oncoming pickup truck swerved to avoid a deer and ran into them head-on, killing both.

– Allen Best



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows